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Our Big Surprise

Why today should not have been a surprise.

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2003 by RDFollendoreIII

One American commander of an Engineer Group is reported as saying,   "It wasn't even a fair fight. I don't know why they don't just surrender.  When you're playing soccer at home, 3-2 is a fair score, but here it's more like 119-0."  "We don't want Americans here. This is Iraq."  a civilian Iraqi engineer said.

March 24, 2003

There are just two points that need to be understood before you can get what I am writing here.  First of all, I am a Southerner and I am proud of it.  There still remains a polite sense of decency, high honor and gracious tradition that adds up to people who believe in their home and the sacrifices of their family, no matter how long ago that may have been.  Second, my forever 17 year old "Uncle Keith" died on the Astoria in World War II on August 8th and 9th 1942 at the battle of Salvo Island.  We were told that he went down fighting at his gun, trying to stop the destruction of ships full of thousands of Marines about to go to Guadalcanal. I never got to know him because I was not born when he died.   But there is not a week that I don't think about him.  You see, after my Grandmother passed away, so my Mother got his things.  She passed them on to me to keep before she died.  I keep his medals in a glass case on my wall near my door.  My Uncle has been dead for nearly 62 years now.  He was buried at sea so he has no grave but the sea.  I have no illusions about the glory of combat.   

As with every other war in the history of mankind we have seen today that soldiers got killed and captured and put on display for world television.  Some people got angry about this. America and the news media suddenly seem surprised this war just might not be a cake walk.  When our people start getting murdered, the sterile thirty thousand foot B-52 view is suddenly replaced by the filthy ground level.  That was very much part of what they didn't like.   These pundits for war suddenly began to wonder why our Iraqi enemy is not simply giving up because we are the good guys.  After all, we are the good guys that humanly dropped leaflets telling them how to surrender before we began bombing their cities.  

Evidently the people who were so happy that we were going to "kick Iraqi ass" and to "kick Saddam out," are the same "military experts" who believe that the historic reason why southerners fought so hard during the civil war was to defend slavery.  If so, then let me tell them something.  My family from Virginia and Georgia during the Civil war.  The average Confederate rebel fought so hard in the face of far more supplies and technological superiority because of a "foreign" invasion, not because of slavery.  Common Rebel soldiers did not even have enough money to purchase shoes, or decent food.  They could not afford expensive slaves and could not feed them if they were given to them.  They didn't  like most of their leaders and certainly not the politicians.  No, Mr. and Mrs. pro invade Iraq, the famous courage of the Confederates was there because they were simply protecting their homeland from outsiders. The chill that went up the spines of Yankee invaders were either the result of hearing the Rebel Yell in battle, or from feeling a cold Rebel bayonet enter between their ribs.  When Rebels ran out of ammunition, they stood up and threw rocks at their enemy.  

If any of us now think that Iraq is not a dangerous place to attack then they had better reconsider their thinking about why people fight.  It is not for Saddam that many of these people will kill our troops over.  It is simply that we have invaded their native soil.  We say we are liberating them from their horrible leaders.  We say that we will help them rebuild and then go away.  Their leaders may be lying "sons of bitches" but they are "their lying sons of bitches."  We had better understand and come to terms with this philosophy because it is exactly the same as ours. But more than that, we should also get a glimmer of understanding of what we are facing from the point of view of the part of this great nation that has experienced invasion.

The really old folks that I have known while I grew up in the south had stories that told of what happened to the enemy after the it was occupied by the United States Army.  Some told me that the woods are full of the forgotten graves of dead Yankees "who lost their way" both during and after the war   It is one thing to successfully invade another's homeland, but it is entirely a different thing to hold it.  After years of war, the Union Generals understood this.  The Northern troops simply did not have the manpower to keep troops everywhere so they only went out in force when they had to.  The point is that winning this war in Iraq in some ways may be much easier than the occupation.  Just as with the South, occupation can be a deadly occupation.  Because of this we may have not seen anything yet.

It may not be nice to see dead Americans, but through their presence on the airwaves the dead serve our Nation too.  Those images of horrible bloated bodies say to us that while they were alive they did their best in spite of the fact that this war is cruel and unfair.  But the dead also tells us much more.  The honored dead shout to us that we need to be absolutely sure that we are willing to order men and women in the uniformed service and thereby have them accept the same kinds of horrors that we inflict on our enemy.  Their bodies scream that we must come to accept that if the tables were turned and we were invaded, we would do whatever it took to kill our invaders.  

General Franks, the man responsible for the American execution of tactics and strategy says that this war is unlike any other war in history.  He is dead wrong.

Iraq clearly has great disadvantages in conducting this war.  First and foremost, Iraq is an open desert country that is perfect for modern long range technologies.  We have that technology and they don't.  Everything about them evolved in this climate and terrain.  This is an ancient society that has known all along that they must depend on tactics to get close and inflict unusual damage.  We say we will not forget atrocities and will punish soldiers that fail to treat Americans POW's under the terms of the Geneva Convention.  But this is an ancient civilization that also does not forget. Success has its price, but that price is high and it is a cost the American public is not prepared for and were carefully not told.  All human beings may be fundamentally the same but civilizations are not.  The fact is that reforming the Iraqi civilization may well be like keeping the animals in the movie Jurassic park in check in order to have a tourist attraction.  This may well be the fundamental reason why the Iraqi leadership has been so brutal. 

So let the images of war come into our living rooms and let our children see it. Allow these images to refresh both our young and old minds about the true ideals of war and about its death and destruction.  Let us remember that the pain and suffering still lingers after so much death.  Let it make us want to we go to a civil war battlefield we can still sense the pain so that we never want to repeat it.  If the long gone body of my brave Uncle Keith could somehow rise from the dark and cold depths of the south Pacific Ocean, perhaps he could explain what I have just written a little better.





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